Available on Tunes

From '' Roots ''
Label: Reprise Records ‎– R-6057 (Pop Series)
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono
Country: US
Released: 1961

A1 I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water
A2 I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town
A3 Key To The Highway
A4 Did You Ever
A5 Confessin' The Blues
A6 Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
B1 Your Red Wagon
B2 Rain Is Such A Lonesome Sound
B3 Cherry Red
B4 It's A Low Down Dirty Shame
B5 Just A Dream
B6 Please, Mr. Webster

Tenor Saxophone – Ben Webster

Art Direction – Merle Shore
Cover – Mary Ella Warren
Liner Notes – Nat Hentoff

Jimmy Witherspoon Featuring Ben Webster


"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" is a blues standard written by Jimmy Cox in 1923.
Its lyric, told from the point of view of a one-time millionaire during the Prohibition era, reflects on the fleeting nature of material wealth and the friendships that come and go with it. As a vaudeville-style blues, it was popularized by Bessie Smith, the preeminent female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s.
Since her 1929 recording, it has been interpreted by numerous musicians in a variety of styles.

Early recordings

Although "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" was published in 1923, the first known recording did not appear until 1927. Piedmont blues musician Bobby Leecan, who recorded with various ensembles, such as the South Street Trio, Dixie Jazzers Washboard Band, and Fats Waller's Six Hot Babies, recorded an early rendition of the song as Blind Bobby Baker, with his vocal and fingerpicking-style guitar.
His version, recorded in New York around June 1927, was titled "Nobody Needs You When You're Down and Out" and used some different lyrics with emphasis on the hard times (Perfect 133, Pathé Actuelle 7533).

On January 15, 1929, influential boogie-woogie pianist Pinetop Smith recorded "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" in Chicago (Vocalion 1256).
In it the lyrics are spoken rather than sung to Smith's piano accompaniment.
The song is one of eleven-known recordings by Smith, who died two months after he recorded it.

Bessie Smith's version

Bessie Smith recorded the song on May 15, 1929 in New York.
Unlike the earlier versions, Bessie Smith recorded the song with instrumental accompaniment, including a small trumpet section. When Smith's record was released on September 13, 1929 (a Friday), the lyrics turned out to be oddly prophetic.
The New York stock market had reached an all-time high less than two weeks earlier, only to go into its biggest decline two weeks later in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which signaled the beginning of the ten-year Great Depression.

Bessie Smith's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" became one of her biggest hits, but was released before "race records" were tracked by record industry publications, such as Billboard magazine.
Today, it "more than any other, is the song that most people associate with Bessie Smith".

1930s–1960s renditions

Due to the popularity of Bessie Smith's recording, numerous musicians began interpreting the song in recordings of their own.

The song became an early standard with jazz and blues artists, such as:
the Count Basie Orchestra,
Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five,
Sidney Bechet,
Eddie Condon,
Josh White,
Julia Lee
and Lead Belly.

In the late 1950s – early 1960s, it again became popular with the American folk music revival, with recordings by:
Eric Von Schmidt,
Chad Mitchell Trio
and an early demo by Janis Joplin with Jorma Kaukonen.

In 1960, a version by Nina Simone reached number 23 in the Billboard R&B chart as well as number 93 in the Hot 100 pop chart

In the mid-1960s, soul versions were recorded by Sam Cooke and Otis Redding; rock versions by the Spencer Davis Group, pre-Allman Brothers Band Duane Allman and Gregg Allman, and Them; and a French version by Nino Ferrer (as "Le Millionnaire").

Eric Clapton

In 1970, he recorded a group version with his band, Derek and the Dominos, for their debut album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
The recording took place at the Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida with Jim Gordon (drums), Carl Radle (bass), Bobby Whitlock (organ), and Duane Allman (slide guitar).

Later recordings

"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" continues to be recorded by many musicians in different styles.

To illustrate their variety, some examples include:
Dick Hyman,
Tom Jones,
B.B. King,
Katie Melua,
Van Morrison,
Emmy Rossum,
Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan,
Rod Stewart,
Dave Van Ronk,
Neko Case,
Bobby Womack
and Sara Niemietz.


Jazz / Blues

Vic Godard
In T.R.O.U.B.L.E. Again

Georgie Fame
Fame At Last

The Ink Spots
Memories Of You

Joe Morris Orchestra
The Spider / Mad Moon

Big Joe Turner
The Boss Of The Blues Sings Kansas City Jazz

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
Texas Playboy Rag / Silver Dew On The Blue Grass Tonight

Pete Haycock
Guitar And Son

The Ink Spots
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall / I'm Making Believe

Lena Horne
Lena On The Blue Side

Buddy Johnson And His Orchestra
Jet / No More Love

Mary Lou Williams
The Progressive Piano Of Mary Lou Williams